Tange's Milestones on Her Milestone 50th Birthday

Sunday marked the 19th anniversary of Tange’s arrival at The Sanctuary in 2004, as well as her 50th birthday.

Tange carries remnants of treat post-party

In honor of these big milestones and many others during her time at The Sanctuary, Care Staff held a two-day celebration for Tange, equipped with lots of enrichment and favorite snacks at Africa Habitat. Staff created a large arch made of woven bamboo, with popcorn, strawberry, dried fig, and apricot garland hung by edible raffia grass. Purple, blue, and red balls, along with a giant “50”, were all made from hay wrapped in rice paper. Staff placed stars made from “hay-mâché” — a mixture of hay, flour, and water.

On the first day of the celebration, Tange chose to spend the day foraging in the sunshine with Sukari and Flora in the Upper Habitat, the farthest area from where her decorations and treats were waiting for her back at the barn. "Even as the oldest member of the Africa Barn herd (by 10 years!), Tange continues to avidly travel throughout the habitats," said Laura H., Africa Barn Caregiver (and unofficial Elephant Party Planner.) To ensure the other elephants did not partake in the fun without Tange, Care Staff carefully took the bamboo arch down and reset it the next day, awaiting her return. When Tange arrived, just a day late to her own party, she went right for the hay star treats before pulling the arch down and eating it in one bite.

Tange's favorite seemed to be the frozen Mazuri grain dusted cake with a sweet, fruity center. When all else had been eaten, she wandered about the habitat with the two last bamboo stalks crisscrossed and tucked between her tusks, munching as she walked.

While Tange experiences the perfect 50th birthday, exploring the habitat with bamboo and treats in tow, we wanted to share a few of her most important milestones through the years:

Tange Arrives at The Sanctuary

Tange was born in the wilds of Africa in 1973 and was captured and imported with other elephants to North America at the age of five. She and another orphaned calf named Zula were sold to the Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, Georgia in 1978 where they lived for 26 years. In 2002, the Animal Park closed their elephant exhibit, and after many months of researching other facilities, chose to retire Tange and Zula to The Elephant Sanctuary.

On February 19, 2004, Tange became the 10th resident and the first African elephant to retire to The Sanctuary. Zula was next — the two were transported as a pair, arriving one month before African elephant Flora.

Tange & Zula arrive at The Sanctuary

Meeting Flora

Care Staff remember the early days when Tange and Flora were first introduced. “Tange would follow Flora around, standing back in the shadows and observing,” says Kristy E., Senior Manager – Elephant Care. With time, the two became companions, though Flora was much more dominant. Then, in 2015, the residents of Africa Habitat welcomed Sukari to the herd.

Tange & Flora on the EleCams in 2015

Tange Emerges as "Matriarch" when Sukari Arrives

“A big milestone for Tange was observed when Sukari arrived from the Nashville Zoo in 2015. With increased social opportunity, we saw Tange take a more dominant position within the herd, showing the other elephants how to interact with their new surroundings. It has been wonderful to see her growing confidence in her interactions with other elephants, her environment, and her Care Staff,” says Kristy.

In the wild, elephants like Tange, Flora and Sukari would spend their lives with the herd into which they were born, and it would be unusual to form social bonds outside of their family herds. However, in Tange’s many years at The Sanctuary, she has developed social bonds with Flora and Sukari — together making full use of the ponds and the wooded areas of their expansive habitat.

Tange & Sukari share space for the first time in 2016

Exploring the Africa Habitat Expansion & Beyond

Tange is known for her travels throughout the habitat; she is considered one of the most active African elephants, even though she is the oldest. She is constantly moving from one area to another, pushing on trees and foraging along the way. Another milestone for Tange and The Sanctuary came in 2016, when Africa Habitat was expanded and new areas were opened up for the elephants' exploration. Now known as the East Habitat, Tange and her herd mates continue traversing each corner of the habitat together. The large habitats allow her the space to move and walk, providing exercise and the opportunity to age gracefully in this natural environment.

Growing in Confidence

Tange has made great strides since her arrival, when she was described as "timid" and sometimes "anxious" around her Care Staff. Today, she is known to be calm and relaxed during Protected Contact training, eager to learn and reliable in her behaviors. When receiving high-level positive reinforcement (such as a watermelon), Tange often "takes a break" and closes her eyes, lets her trunk dangle loosely, and sucks on her favorite foods as if she is truly savoring the moment.

We are grateful to have a front row seat for all of Tange's important moments, big and small. “The thing I admire most about Tange is her 'goofy' personality,” says Madeline M., Africa Barn Lead. “She throws branches on herself and stuffs hay into her tusks, ripping off pieces bit by bit. She discovers food and enrichment with wide eyes, likely indicating her anticipation of eating 'the good stuff.' You can often hear her loudly munching on her snacks, enjoying every last bite.” Happy 50th birthday, Tange!

In honor of Tange's birthday, we are offering 20% off the Tange T-Shirt in our Shop now through the end of the week! Use code TANGE20 until February 26th.

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